LHP Alex Wood was arguably the piece of the Homer Bailey deal with the Dodgers that had the most value to the Reds. Wood (28) has a career 3.29 ERA and 3.49 xFIP with the Dodgers and Braves. He becomes a free agent at the end of this season. But he’s been sidelined with a back injury since spring training. Recent reports indicate Wood is taking early steps to get back on the mound. So the question for our panel of writers is this:

Question: Where does a healthy Alex Wood fit in the Reds pitching plans?

Chris Garber: I think Alex Wood is still a key part of the Reds’ plan, and will slot right into the rotation when he returns. The real question is whether he takes the place of Tyler Mahle, who has options, or Anthony Desclafani, who has clearly been the least effective member of the rotation.

Doug Gray: This is a tough question with a few different layers. Right now, everyone is healthy. But Alex Wood is still a month away from being ready to pitch this season and all of that could change. With that said, even if everyone is healthy the first place to look would be Anthony DeSclafani, who is struggling this season. His ERA sits at 4.70 and he continues to give up home runs at an incredibly high rate. There’s time for him to turn it around, but it needs to start the next time out and keep going. In the bullpen there’s possibly some more room. Of course, who knows what the bullpen will look like a month from now? This team swaps guys in and out every 2 weeks. One of the lefties that have had some struggles – Peralta or Duke, could be on the outside looking in.

Nick Kirby: This “problem” will probably take care of itself. The Reds have been fortunate that the five starters they began the season with are still healthy, but the chances that keeps up for much longer is slim. However, if Wood comes back and everyone is still healthy, I would put Wood in the bullpen until a spot opens up. Wood has the experience and success as a reliever which none of the Reds current starters have. Wood would certainly bolster the bullpen and it might help him stay healthy. If DeSclafani doesn’t turn it around there could certainly be a case made for moving him to the pen or AAA, but everyone has really solidified themselves, including Tyler Mahle.

Jason Linden: I think DeSclafani should go to the bullpen. He’s been the least good of the starters, probably isn’t part of the longterm pictures, and hasn’t exactly pitched a full season recently. I don’t know if that’s what WILL happen. I think there’s a good chance Mahle goes down, which is silly. Anyway, one of those two things is what will happen. I don’t see any other possible options.

Steve Mancuso: Assuming everyone is healthy, I’d send Tanner Roark to the bullpen and put Alex Wood in the starting rotation. Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and Sonny Gray should be locks for the starting five. That leaves Tanner Roark and Anthony DeSclafani. This is one of those situations where looking at ERA is misleading. Instead, the two composite metrics I look at for evaluating pitchers are xFIP and SIERA. DeSclafani has been better in both of those. Roark’s xFIP is 4.50 while Anthony DeSclafani’s is 4.48. Disco has an edge of 4.22 to 4.49 in SIERA and has better K% and BB% than Roark. Beyond that, Roark has bullpen experience at the major league level. When he was acquired by the Reds this winter, Roark said he wouldn’t mind any role, including the bullpen. Roark becomes a free agent in 2020 while DeSclafani is under Reds control through 2020.

29 Responses

  1. Shchi Cossack

    Wood won’t return before the end of June, assuming his rehab goes smoothly this time. If Wood returns by the end of June, the issue becomes the Reds success in 2019 vs future success.

    If the Reds turn around their performance and become contenders, I want the best 5 starters in the starting rotation, but Wood needs an opportunity to compete as one of the best 5 starters. Option Mahle for a month to give the starting rotation time to shake out with Wood as a member of the starting rotation. At that point, reevaluate the starting rotation and if Mahle is one of the best 5 starters, the odd man out moves to the bullpen.

    If the Reds are buried and out of contention and Wood returns by the end of June , I would like to see Wood in the starting rotation with DeSclafani optioned to AAA. This provides 2 benefits for the Reds. If Wood is healthy and successful, the Reds still have a month to trade him to a contender or consider an extension. If the Reds keep Wood in the starting rotation for the remainder of the 2019 season with DeSclafani in AAA, DeSclafani becomes an option for the starting rotation in both 020 and 2021.

    If the Reds are buried and out of contention but Wood doesn’t return by the end of June, option Mahle to AAA when Wood does return and bring him back up when needed for the starting rotation. Mahle becomes an option for the starting rotation thru 2025.

  2. matt hendley

    Assuming no one is injured between now and then.

    Alex wood to rotation-
    Poor performer dropped to AAA. Prob Disco or Mahle, small chance it could be Roark, at which point he is moved to BP (non-optionable without consent) and someone else dropped from Bullpen.

    Never hurts to make a good thing better

  3. Kyle

    With Wood slated to return in July, I think he will take Roark’s place when he is eventually traded. Lucas Sims can fill in temporarily if there is another setback. Then if he does well when he is here, I would offer him a qualifying offer to “prove it”. If he accepts, cool. If not, whatever.

  4. Steven Ross

    Steve, you know far more than me but aren ‘t Roark’s ERA and FIP far better than Disco’s? Not even close. It’s a push on xFIP. Disco’s better in SIERA but not enough to justify moving Roark to the bullpen. By the time Wood returns, it might not be an issue but just curious. Thanks.

    • Bill J

      Another thing Disco’s HR rate is 3 times higher than Roark this year.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Pitchers have some control over the number of fly balls they give up relative to ground balls. But research shows that they don’t have much control over the percentage of fly balls that end up as home runs. So I don’t pay much attention to the number of HRs given up. If anything, I see it as a reverse indicator – if the pitcher has given up a lot of home runs he probably won’t continue to do so. The stats I choose, xFIP and SIERA neutralize a pitcher’s home run rate relative to fly balls. See a detailed explanation about home runs in this post from earlier in the year:


      • old-school

        I think all indicators are clear.
        Luis Castillo #1
        Sonny Gray #2
        Tyler Mahle at age 23 with a 5.1 % BB walk rate and growing #3.
        Tanner Roarck a solid vet who doesn’t give up home runs but not controlled past October 1 #4. Trade Candidate very soon
        Disco a distant #5. homer prone and advanced metrics far below the other 4 and getting expensive.

        Find a an elite lefty and pay for him- whether it be with FA money or prospect capital. Ryu or Matthew Boyd.

  5. Eric

    First: All y’all’s examinations of this topic are quite salient – this is one of the reasons why I LOVE reading not only the articles here, but the comments, as well.

    Steve, you have got me fully on board with xFIP over ERA (any of y’all who haven’t read Steve’s series on pitching stats needs to go back and do that – fascinating stuff!) but because of Disco’s propensity for giving up home runs, (14 so far, compared with twelve for Mahle – all other Reds pitchers are at six or fewer), I’d like to know what xFIP and SIERA look like if we just isolate the first-through-third innings. My thinking here is that early dingers end up putting the Reds in a hole that they might not otherwise be in with a different starter on the mound.

    Maybe it’s time to pilot the “opener” with Disco’s starts? I dunno…

    At any rate, I’m really excited to see how the dynamic changes with Wood on the hill. Easing him back into MLB play out of the bullpen, if he’s agreeable, would be even better.

  6. Brian S Jolley

    First of all, I would try hard to trade Roark and/or DeSclafani. I do not think they are good enough to be starters on the next contending Red’s team. Wood might be however, and his trade value is low because of fragility. I will be disappointed (but not surprised) if they send Mahle down because of service time/options or whatever. They need to see what they have in Wood to decide on the future of the rotation. They know what they have with Roark and DeSclafani, which are decent #5 starters on a .500 team. If they can’t find any takers to trade them, then stick one in the bullpen. I would rather see Roark stay in the rotation because he is more durable than DeSclafani and less likely to get knocked out of the game early.

    • Mark Lang

      I disagree – I think Roark is the perfect 4 or 5 guy – he gives you 5 or 6 competitive innings every time out. If he’s your teams true 4 or 5 guy, then pitching isn’t your team’s problem.

      • Lwblogger2

        Agree with you 100% … He was a solid 4 option in a very good Nats’ rotation and was the guy who they could count on to stay healthy. He’s gone after the season and I’m not sure I’d try to extend him but that could change if I’m not hearing good return value if I try to trade him at the deadline (if Reds out of it)

  7. Jordan Barhorst

    Presumably Roark needs to be traded by September anyway, right? Why not just pull the trigger a little early? His value is likely the highest it’s ever been currently. Get a piece or two back in exchange for opening up a slot in the rotation.

    • Shchi Cossack

      Not by September, by July 31st. We are entering new ground regarding summer trades, especially early summer trades. I would expect to see some movement soon and I hope the Reds are open for selling contracts for players that will not contribute in 2020 nd beyond.

  8. Jefferson Green

    I like getting Wood into the rotation ASAP in order to get a strong performer maximum innings to impact games for the benefit of the Reds’ immediate record. I also like trying to establish some trade value if the immediate record becomes a secondary consideration.
    I prefer to leave Disco and Mahle in the rotation to continue their development (TM especially, but AD could return to his previous solid production with some tweaks to his pitching). Roark is not part of next year’s team, so if the chance to get Wood into the rotation actually comes to fruition, I would prefer to see him traded for some kind of value (but know it will not be much). If TR cannot be traded, the bull pen would be a place he could perform for this team.

    • Steven

      Simple solution trade Roark here in the next few weeks.

      • David

        Yeah, unfortunately (because I like Roark), that is probably the most logical outcome.
        Wood will not have many starts (if any) before the trading deadline, and would likely fetch about nothing.
        The bitter end of the much ballyhooed trade with the Dodgers, which has kind of been a big failure.
        I don’t blame Dick Williams for trying, because a lot of us thought it was a good idea at the time. Just hasn’t worked out

  9. C Holbert

    With the anemic status of the offense, I think they need to have the SP in the rotation that have kept them the games the best. They keep waiting for Disco to “regain” the form he had. He has only had one year of ERA under 4.00 and he only pitched part of the year. He is a 4/5 at best and the Reds have to give Mahle the opportunity to compete on the major level. He is young, 24, and look what has happened to Castillo with the every fifth day opportunity. He has kept them in the games, with the exception of a couple starts, and seems to be on his game each time out. Disco has proven he can be counted on as a lower end starter, Mahle has the chance to be a 2, they should run him out there every fifth day and watch that maturation. Wood also has something that is different that forces moves form their opponents. He throws from the left side, and the reds have not seen an effective LH starter for a while.

    • Jefferson Green

      I agree that Disco has struggled a bit this year, which stands out on a staff that has been so good. I’d also argue that Disco has a ceiling as a #2 starter. Throwing out his year with a 3.23 ERA as a partial year (but still 20 starts and 123 innings pitched), his previous year he had a 4.05 ERA (with slightly better xFIP, which is a much better predictor of future performance), and ranked 51st in all of baseball that year in that metric. With 30 teams, 51st puts him comfortably in the top 2 for many teams. He may never quite hit that #2 ceiling, but it exists (as it does for Mahle).

      • Indy Red Man

        4.05 with a 1.35 whip might be a #3 if you pitch for the Rockies, Rangers, or Orioles. I will agree with you that Disco can still be a serviceable to decent pitcher! His arm his sound and he’s hitting 94-95 almost every time out, but its his slider imo. When he controls it and has some bite on it then he’s tough!!

        5 starts with a 0.97 combined era & 1 hr allowed
        All the rest of this starts : Not that good:)

        On the personal side….he works hard. He’s in good shape and competes! He’s no sure thing, but where else are we going to find a potentially solid #3? At the same time if he got hot and then dealt him & DD for solid youngsters then I couldn’t argue. Disco is 29 and the Reds are atleast 2 years away

  10. doofus

    Wood in rotation.

    Roarke traded.

    DeSclafani in AAA or Saskatoon.

    Braves pitching prospect in rotation, obtained for Raisel Iglesias.

  11. Old-school

    Context of the season matters. The Cubs and Brewers are pulling away. Both are 10 over .500 and project to make the playoffs with the Dodgers and likely 2NL east teams. . Reds can have a winning season. They should be better than the Pirates.

    I don’t like any idea of Tyler Mahle not in the rotatiom. Going into 2020, Castillo/ Gray/ and Mahle are the internal core assuming health. The day the Reds fall 10 under .500 or 10 games back to both the Cubs and Brewers, I would make Tanner Roarck available and aggressively move on to 2020.

  12. Old-school

    This just in.. pirates and braves benches cleared. Musgrove and Donaldson .

    • Eric

      …and in an even-MORE-interesting development, they were both ejected…ALONG with Clint Hurdle!

      It’s almost like…the league…MIGHT…be catching ON to something!!!

  13. Steve Schoenbaechler

    First, I will say, this is a good problem to have.

    I would have to say, if all stays the same, which something can easily be changed between now and then, Disco is moved, somehow, somewhere, etc., within or outside the club.

    I can understand a person’s reasoning for starting Disco and moving Roark. But, I also look at Disco didn’t pitch at all in 2017 and only made 2/3 of his starts in 2016 and 2018. Disco has been injury-plagued for 4 seasons and may still be hurting a bit. Best for him to work things out in the pen till he’s ready.

    But, in turn, Roark has started 30+ games for 3 straight seasons, not pitching under 180 innings. Disco has only gotten there once. Even this season, Disco is on pace for only 150 innings, provided he doesn’t get re-injured. Roark is on pace for about 170 innings.

    Now, what can very well happen, also, is, come trade time, the Reds made end up becoming dealers and decide to try to deal Roark for something, maybe as packaged.

    • Indy Red Man

      They better move fast on Roark. A 1.41 whip doesn’t equal 3.74? Not in GABP it doesn’t? He’d allowed 2 hrs until his last 2 starts. Thats a complete fluke. I like the guys heart and he competes, but he’s a 4.60 era 5th starter type that will be 33 in October. They did get Suarez for Simon and Roark is better then Simon was. Who knows?

      Alex Wood? As a fantasy baseball old-timer….loved the guy. Everyone would look for someone flashier and I would grab him late every year! 16-3 with a 2.72 just 2 years ago!! He’s still lost some zip on his heater and gabp isn’t Dodger Stadium. We’ll see? I’m sort of afraid he has a couple of good months and the Reds sign him for 3 years. We’ll see? To me the Reds are 2-3 years away atleast, so investing too much in 29-30 years old is dicey at best. I would pay Scooter>DD and maybe SS-Iggy. Look at dealing anyone else over 27 except Suarez.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        While I agree with you on the WHIP comment, Roark’s is still better than Disco’s. And there are some who are looking at moving Roark to the pen?